Ten years of unprecedented change: The evolution of the book industry

While the earliest known examples of books are Mesopotamian clay tablets and Egyptian papyrus rolls, experts agree that books as communications tools came into existence even earlier than that. And while books have changed over the centuries and an industry has grown around them, it’s safe to say the last ten years have seen some of the most significant changes.

When I look back, some clear trends emerge out of the past decade:

  • Creative nonfiction has gained popularity over fiction
  • Bookstores as physical places have grown sparser (but, I would argue, more important than ever)
  • Self-publishing has cemented its place in the industry while also changing it
  • And, of course, we’ve witnessed a significant shift to a digital marketplace—arguably the greatest revolution our industry has seen.

Let’s take a look back: In March-April 2010, Apple launched its iPad and iBookstore. Within two months, the company had taken 22%+ of the ebook market. That August, Amazon announced that its sale of ebooks had surpassed that of hardcover titles for the first time ever.

In terms of readership, in 2009, only 3% used ereaders. By 2010, the number grew from 15 to 40 million. In 2014, the percentage share is 15%. About five years down the line, it is projected that 50% of all readers will read on electronic devices. (More info here.) And we know from the Kids and Family Reading Report that the percent of children who have read an ebook has almost doubled since 2010 (25% vs. 46%).

Ebooks have great benefits—readers can achieve instant gratification by purchasing and owning a book within seconds! They have lower price points than physical books, and readers can find a bigger variety of titles online than they often can in physical stores. eBooks and print-on-demand capabilities have opened new doors for writers, too. (In Australia, book vending machines let users place an order and enjoy a coffee while their book gets delivered on the spot!)

For Scholastic, a 93-year-old institution, the history of books and the changes we’ve seen in the last decade to how we read and create them are strong reminders of what we’ve always known: that reading, no matter the format, is a way for humanity to connect, to communicate, to evolve and share and learn.

Whether you read on a tablet or on paper, whether you purchased it from the cloud or from your neighborhood store, the act of reading is still vital.